Leonard Fournette is not Jerome Bettis.
At least not yet.
But if the Steelers pull of a trade for Fournette — like some are speculating they could or should. The comparisons between that and the trade with the St. Louis Rams that brought them Jerome Bettis would be immediate.
It was fourteen years and one day ago (April 20, 1996) that the Steelers acquired Jerome Bettis and a third-round pick for the team’s second-round pick in that year’s draft and a fourth-round selection in 1997.
Bettis had exploded into the league with 1429 yards on the ground in his first year. However the Rams weren’t a great team at the time and Bettis struggled in years two and three. After the Rams drafted Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips in the first-round, the team turned around and dealt Bettis to the Steelers.
Fournette like Bettis was at the time, is going into his fourth year in the NFL. Both were top 10 selections in the NFL Draft. Unlike Bettis, Fournette is coming off his best season as a pro by far. Even while stuck on the offensively inept Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019, Fournette had 1152 yards rushing on a career best 4.3 yards per carry and added 76 receptions for 522 yards. His 1674 yards from scrimmage placed him 6th in the league. By comparison, Jerome Bettis was coming off a season in which he had only 743 all-purpose yards.
While the Bettis swap is now regarded as one of the worst in NFL history, at the time, the Rams looked like they were doing the smart thing, getting rid of a underachieving back on the cusp of free agency. Unfortunately for them, Phillips was a bust, and the back they traded away ended up with 1431 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year with the new team.
It’s a decidedly different era in NFL history. Running backs have very little value and even shorter careers. But if a player of Fournette’s caliber can be had for a mid-round draft pick, would the Steelers be interested in another trade for a running back?
No matter what, it probably wouldn’t work out as well as the one that brought Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis to the Steelers in 1996.
NFL Releases Pro Day Schedules
The 2021 NFL Combine should be kicking off this week in Indianapolis, but like so many other things in the past year, it has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL has decided not to risk bringing together prospects, scouts and media from around the country and will instead be relying on the schools’ individual pro days to evaluate prospects.
With that in mind, the league has taken a greater measure of control over the process, and on Wednesday, released a preliminary schedule for each team’s pro day.
March 5: Kansas
March 9: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Whitewater
March 10: Arkansas, Marshall, Maryland, Wisconsin
March 11: Clemson, Nevada, Texas
March 12: Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma
March 15: Army, Kent State, Middle Tennessee St., Vanderbilt
March 16: Georgia Tech, Temple
March 17: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pitt, San Jose St.
March 18: Auburn, Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe,
Stanford, Troy, West Virginia
March 19: Memphis, Ohio, TCU
March 22: Air Force, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Missouri, Toledo
March 23: Alabama, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, Purdue
March 24: Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, USC, Virginia
March 25: Georgia Southern, UMass, Ole Miss, North Texas, Penn State, San Diego St., SMU, Tennessee, Western Michigan
March 26: Boston College, BYU, Michigan, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech
March 29: Arizona State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), North Carolina
March 30: Alabama, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tulane, Washington
March 31: Boise State, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest
April 1: UCF, Minnesota, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, USF, Western Kentucky
April 2: Oregon, Tulsa
April 7: Texas Tech
April 9: UAB, Ball State, Houston
Should Steelers Use First Round Pick on a Center?
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.